Friday, 2 August 2013

The Conjuring (2013) - Horror Film Review

Boy am I tired, but my blog is thirsty for an update and I have just returned from seeing The Conjuring at the cinema with my sister. Directed by James Wan who also directed Saw and Insidious I was expecting to get my fill of fear. This one is based on true events apparently.

The year is 1971 and the Perron family (consisting of Carolyn, Roger and their 5 girls) have moved into a creepy old house in Rhode Island that just happens to be haunted. With a whole host of supernatural hijinks going on the terrified family call in infamous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to help them stop the evil. A demonic force has latched itself onto the family and is not willing to give them up.

Insidious scared me so I was expecting good things here. The whole sub genre of supernatural forces assaulting a family (Insidious, Mama, Sinister etc) has on the most part been successful in creeping me out but I fear that much like the Paranormal Activity series of films this type is running its course as I found myself numb to a lot of the scares. Like others of its ilk The Conjuring follows the cycle of day and night, day time being investigations, night being when the true creeping dread occurs. It is genuinely unsettling and creepy at times, the house the family live in is old and creaky, the hidden basement is maybe the spookiest looking basement I have seen in a film yet. There are some great sequences here, an early game of a blindfold clapping hunt had some unsettling moments and the film does a good job of building up tension and atmosphere but usually fumbles the ball and gives a payoff that is often disappointing, the trick ending being a prime example. Jump scares are used, but sparingly and Paranormal Activity style sequences of characters being dragged about by nothing are rife, The Conjuring is at its best when it is giving new ways to produce chills.

Based on a true story it just felt like there was less danger, you knew right away the main characters survived the events and so you never got to properly fear for their safety. While the events of the film are bizarre and definitely supernatural I got the impression they were sticking to the reported facts so much that more fanciful stuff couldn't occur. A later demonic possession angle also mitigated the scares somewhat. Dealing with one person, even a possessed person is far less frightening than an invisible presence that could be anywhere.

For all its faults I did enjoy The Conjuring, the actors are mostly good, or at least fun to watch, Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) is great as Ed Warren, his relationship with his wife in the film Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) is believable and understated, these two people are deeply in love but subtleness creates this far more than grand scenes of romance ever could. The family are ok, do the job well but none of them stand out. The direction is quite cool, it riffs off horror films of the 70's such as The Exorcist and some shots that wouldn't have looked out of place in an Evil Dead film. The sets look fantastic, special mention goes to the Warrens room of cursed items they have. I have a real fear of dolls and puppets (I refuse to watch Team America for that very reason) so the appearance of a sinister porcelain doll as part of an intro tale was well appreciated. The ghosts themselves are nothing special, kind of bland if I'm honest.

At times chilling, at others predictable and by the numbers I nonetheless did enjoy The Conjuring and it certainly worked its magic on my sister who spent a lot of the film with her hands covering her eyes. Though it is showing early signs of getting stale I think there is still some life left in this style of film, Insidious 2 is on the way so I guess that will be the litmus test.



Dan O. said...

Good review. Not the scariest thing I've seen, but definitely a good time, especially because it's the type of horror movie that has fun with it's unrelenting amount of terror and chills.

Daniel Simmonds said...

I did enjoy it, I am kind of worried that these types of films are running out of new ideas, much like the found footage sub genre did